The Grand Canyon continues to be in my thoughts and dreams since my Rim 2 Rim on May 20. I’ve been an avid follower of two Grand Canyon Facebook pages (GC R2R2R Run! and GC Hikers) for several months. Before May 20, I used to chuckle at the people who would comment about how much they missed being at the Big Ditch after their hikes or runs. Really, I thought, they don’t miss the pain?
But now I get it! Epic adventures stay in your mind forever. Plus the crossing was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Completing it makes it even more memorable and amazing. As Tom Hanks’ character said in “A League of Their Own,” it’s the hard that makes it great.
The 11-week training plan from our fearless leader, Arlen Isham, totally helped with my preparation, as did all the cardio I do daily (running and walking). But nothing really can prepare you for the steep steps and anti-erosion stones. You’re almost always stepping over or around something during the 21-mile South to North Rim journey. Kind of reminds me of navigating the land mines of the boys’ action figures, cars, and trains in the family room when they were little. I miss those days . . . but not the inevitable pain when barefoot.
“In life, most shortcuts end up taking longer than taking the longer route.”
But that ain’t true in the Grand Canyon, because Rim 2 Rim actually is a shortcut! Even though it’s about 10 miles across the Big Ditch as the condor flies, it’s about 220 miles by vehicle. It almost seems easier to hike across it!
Most of my friends and family think I’m all that and a bag of chips when it comes to being active. They seem amazed that I still run half marathons and almost couldn’t believe I was training to hike across the Grand Canyon at age 63. But they don’t know Arlen. He’s incredible! Not only has he coordinated Rim 2 Rim trips for family and friends (and friends of friends) since the 1980s, he climbs mountains, skis, and has finished more than 100 marathons. Plus he’s 73 years old with a fairly recent artificial hip! He really is inspirational.
I’m usually not a group person, subscribing to Groucho Marx’s belief that any club that wants someone like me isn’t worth joining. Of the 30 other people in our contingent, I only knew Arlen before we started training. But everyone was so nice and interesting, with lots of great stories to tell. Most of them had completed numerous MS 150 bike rides, run marathons, finished triathlons, and/or enjoyed hiking around the world. This was a fun crowd to hang out with!
And I was especially glad to have hiked with Nicole and Alan. I might still be in the Grand Canyon if it hadn’t been for their company and encouragement! They’re wonderful people.
What was my biggest disappointment of the entire trip? I didn’t get one decent sunrise or sunset photo at the Grand Canyon. Not one. Talk about your photo failure—kind of devastating for an avid photographer.
Well, actually, that’s my second biggest disappointment, after hurting my left knee on the South Kaibab Trail during the crossing. A local sports medicine doctor diagnosed it as a grade one lateral collateral ligament strain. Fortunately, that painful joint has been healing, and I’m almost ready to start running again, thankfully. I just can’t get that same endorphin fix from walking 10,000-plus steps each day, even though I am grateful that I can walk several miles each morning.
As I wrote in my previous blog post, I told myself that I was one and done with the Grand Canyon’s R2Rs. And I truly believed it . . . until I was back home looking at my photos and reading the GC’s Facebook pages. Arlen’s daughter, Andrea, told me that she had said the same thing after her first crossing, but that the canyon has a way of bringing you back.
It truly does! Before long, I found myself uttering those fateful words: Next time I do a Rim 2 Rim . . . .
Oh oh! Sounds like I could have future memories to burn into my mind from the Grand Canyon.
The final blog post about Rim 2 Rim still to come: My gear reviews